Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing one of my most anticipated fall releases, Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig. Last year’s One Dark Window was an unexpected favorite of mine. You can find all my thoughts about it in my review. What did I think of the conclusion to the duology? Read on to find out!
In the dark, spellbinding sequel to One Dark Window , Elspeth must confront the weight of her actions as she and Ravyn embark on a perilous quest to save the kingdom—perfect for readers of Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf and Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching.
Gripped by a tyrant king and in the thrall of dark magic, the kingdom is in peril. Elspeth and Ravyn have gathered most of the twelve Providence Cards, but the last—and most important—one remains to be the Twin Alders. If they’re going to find the card before Solstice and set free the kingdom, they will need to journey through the dangerous mist-cloaked forest. The only one who can lead them through is the monster that shares Elspeth’s head: the Nightmare.
And he’s not eager to share any longer.
***Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing a copy of Two Twisted Crowns. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience. WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ONE DARK WINDOW.***
Two Twisted Crowns had some massive shoes to fill because of how much I loved One Dark Window. My expectations were sky high, and this conclusion to the duology met them. It had everything I loved about the first book, such as the card magic, lush writing, and the gloomy forest, but also had a distinct vibe that set it apart in some ways from the first half of the story. It is definitely not a standalone, though. So, it is imperative to read One Dark Window first.
The main thing that set Two Twisted Crowns apart from its predecessor was its distinct lack of Elspeth for a lot of the book. The Nightmare was now in control of her body. One of the things I loved most about the first book was the dynamic and banter between the Nightmare and Elspeth, which was missing from most of this story. The love story between Ravyn and Elspeth also came to somewhat of a halt since she was no longer in control of her body. Some readers may not like this change, but I was fine with it because of everything else going on in the story.
Two Twisted Crowns largely focused on Elm and Ravyn, with Elm’s story being intertwined with Ione’s. The plot was split between the two, with Ravyn going into the forest to track down the elusive Twin Alders card in order to save his brother and bring back Elspeth. Whereas, Elm had to stay behind in the castle and deal with the aftermath of his brother’s grave injuries, which foisted more royal responsibility on his shoulders. I was riveted by the plot of Ravyn’s quest, but I became much more emotionally attached to Elm’s struggles to overcome the trauma of his past and build a happier future for himself and the kingdom.
The main romance in Two Twisted Crowns did surprise me a bit because I didn’t expect the two characters to get together. At times, it did feel like their development as a couple was included because the brakes had been thrown on the relationship between Ravyn and Elspeth. However, I did like Elm and Ione together and found the progression of their romance and emotional connection to be believable. They had some great moments and brought the best out in each other, which I always love. They both had to come to terms with the horror Hauth (seriously, fuck that guy) wrought upon them, and I liked getting to learn more about Ione through Elm’s eyes along the way.
Two Twisted Crowns explored the importance of balance and the power in putting aside revenge to break long-standing, destructive cycles. It also hammered home the point that nothing of value comes for free and illustrated how a constant lust for ‘more’ can consume someone’s life to the point of devastation. Most interestingly, though, the story examined how trauma can change some people into monsters and others into great leaders filled with empathy.
The world-building in Two Twisted Crowns provided so much knowledge about the history of the kingdom and its magic. I loved getting to know the Nightmare better and understanding his motivations on a more personal level. I still really liked the magic system, and everything came together in this story in ways that made all the mysteries make sense.
Overall, Two Twisted Crowns wrapped up this story really well and cemented this duology as one of my favorites. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone who enjoys gloomy fantasy with a side of romance. The covers of both books really do a fantastic job of representing the vibe of the duology. So, if the cover speaks to you, definitely pick these books up. All things considered, I rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Two Twisted Crowns (or One Dark Window)? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments.